Tag: body scanners

Airport Body-Scanners Now More “Gumby-like”

gumbyDue to privacy concerns and heavy scrutiny from travelers regarding the use of body scanning technology at airport security checkpoints, the TSA has unveiled new machines that will project an identical “Gumby-like” image for each person, detecting weapons and other non-metallic materials – without actually showing the passenger’s body, TSA officials said.  Both TSA screeners and passengers will be able to see the images at checkpoints.

The new image is rudimentary, gender-neutral figure with mitten hands, a halo of hair, and no nose – a marked contrast to the photo-negative-like pictures that are so explicit that they are viewed in private rooms by TSA officers.  (Insert smutty thoughts here.)  The new machines also produce no radiation – which was a concern for a number of travelers.

The machines are already being installed at Logan Airport in Boston, but they will likely be coming to an airport near you sometime soon.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Think your stuff is secure once it’s safely locked in your hotel room?  Think again.  Hackers have created a device that fits into a dry-erase pen that can be used to instantly open hundreds of thousands of hotel door locks worldwide.  The pen exploits a flaw in lock-maker Onity’s system.  It relies on the fact that the locks have very little security on their memory systems, allowing any device that knows the Onity lock “language” to unlock it.
  • American Airlines grounded 48 of its Boeing 757s for a second time after determining more repairs were needed to keep passenger seats from coming loose.  Earlier this week AA grounded 48 planes after seats had come loose on two of them during three separate flights in the last several days.  Two flights had to make emergency landings.  The airline said the repairs will be completed by Saturday – but some flights will be delayed and others will need to be canceled until the repairs are done correctly.
  • Flying for the holidays this year?  Well, it’s gonna run you a little more than last year.  (What?  Did you actually think holiday travel would get cheaper?)  The average domestic airfare for travel during the upcoming holiday season has risen about 3% over last year.  I wasn’t a math major, but that’s an increase of about $10 on a $300 ticket.  Probably not enough to keep you home, but enough boost airline revenue.  It’s how the game is played.

scanners 2If you’re one of the few people who view the pat-down at airport security checkpoints as a free massage, then you’re going  to be disappointed to hear that the Department of Homeland Security is making plans to “dramatically reduce” the number of pat-down searches performed at the nation’s airports. The DHS has issued a request for technology companies to come up with a hand-held scanning device that can be used instead of pat-down searches on passengers that set off alarms during full body-scanners. As you may have guessed, the free massage thing really hasn’t caught on – so they’re turning to technology to improve the experience.

To date, the TSA already operates about 700 full-body scanners at 180 airports across the country.  When the scanners detect a hidden object, TSA workers perform a pat-down search.

In a government document, the DHS said it seeks a hand-held device weighing less than 5 pounds that can determine whether a hidden object on a passenger is a weapon or explosive. The device should produce a result in less than 15 seconds

Plan approval and testing could take more than a year, but you should be aware that this type of technology is on the horizon.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • I don’t know about you, but sometimes I stress about my travel.  Will I make my connection?  What will the security line look like?  Do I have to switch concourses?  Well, if you’re like me, you’ll appreciate the “tips for avoiding travel stress” recently noted by CNN.  I feel better already having read it.
  • JetBlue today announced a 2-day “The Summer’s-Hoping Sale” that is offering $59 one-way fares on select routes.  (Hope the marketing department didn’t burn the midnight oil when contriving the name of the sale.)  Book by May 30 for travel between June 5 and September 26.
  • For the first time since they began collecting baggage fees in 2008, the nation’s 17 largest airlines made less from the fees than they did the year before, a sign travelers are changing their packing behavior.  But the airlines are countering the consumer chess move.  United, Delta, American, and U.S. Airways are either retrofitting older planes with bigger overhead storage – or purchasing aircraft with bigger bins.  It’s not because the love you.  They just want to start charging you a fee for carry-on luggage as well.

MasterCard Airfare Price Assurance logo

This week, in Phoenix, was the annual PhoCusWright Conference where folks from all corners of the travel industry gather to share ideas, forge partnerships, and announce some news.  Well, we had some news of our own to announce.  Here it is, as reported by Tnooz (the travel industry’s top trade news outlet):

Yapta and MasterCard plan to begin a beta in December in which MasterCard consumer and small business cardholders purchasing flights with their cards would be able to receive Yapta’s price monitoring and price assurance services.

Yapta pledges that its services get air travelers refunds on the difference when the airfare drops below the price the flight was booked for.

The beta is a prelude to a full-fledged launch of the service with MasterCard in early 2011, Yapta says.

The MasterCard-Yapta partnership punctuates a shift for Yapta, which has been focusing in recent months on supplementing its consumer offering with business to business services.

“This is a significant partnership that will deliver real savings and value to a broader audience of travelers,” says Yapta co-founder and CEO Tom Romary. “It’s also consistent with our strategy to power travel services for travel management companies, online travel search companies and financial services companies.”

The beta will be available to a subset of MasterCard cardholders in December.

Yapta and MasterCard plan to implement a series of collaborative services early next year.”

Here’s some more news you can use:

  • Airport security body scanners used by the TSA continue to gain negative publicity.  John Tyner, a California software engineer, became an instant web celebrity this week when he declined both a body scan and the alternative – a groin check – and then used his iPhone’s video camera to capture the event.  Tyner told TSA agents: “If you touch my junk, I’m going to have you arrested.”  He evaded the junk-touching, but wasn’t allowed to fly.
  • John Tyner apparently isn’t alone in his detest of airport security body scanners.  Others are organizing a “National Opt-Out Day” slated for November 24th — the day before Thanksgiving and probably busiest day of air travel this year. It’s a protest against the full-body scanners at airports.  For all you planning to participate, you should know your rights.
  • AirTran today launched a “Giving Thanks to Our Customers” airfare sale good for tickets purchased today through Monday.  Fares are priced based on “peak,” “off-peak” and “super off-peak” travel dates. The lowest fares are for travel on Nov. 19, 21, 22, 26 and Nov. 30, with some discounts offered for flights on Thanksgiving Day. Also, there are no advance purchase requirements for this sale.

Airfare Sales for Cheap Holiday Travel

HotDealsSome new airfare sales have arrived on the scene – and it could help you save on your holiday travel:

Virgin America is hosting a 48-hour “Taking Care of Business” sale.  Airfares start at $39 each way, but you better act fast because the sale ends tonight.  Travel dates for the sale vary, but most are by December 15th, but a few reach into February 2011.

Alaska Airlines today launched a fare sale for flights purchased through Oct. 23rd.  The airline is sporting fares as low as $89 one-way between Anchorage and Fairbanks and $199 between Anchorage and Seattle.  The fares are available on select routes between Alaska and the Lower 48 states, Canada, Hawaii and Mexico.  Meanwhile, Alaska Airlines Vacations is offering $100 off any vacation package, including packages to Mexico, Hawaii, Las Vegas and Southern California.

Hawaiian Airlines’ new ”Hawaii Five-0” airfare sale, features round-trip fare deals from 10 mainland destinations to Oahu and Maui for as low as $308.  Bonus?  Fares are good for travel at one of the best times of the year in the Islands, and one of the coldest in the rest of the 49 states: winter.

AirTran is also conducting an airfare sale through midnight tonight.  They’re offering Travel is valid through January 26, 2011.  Keep a close eye on blackout dates when sale fares do not apply during the holidays.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • JetBlue Airways plans to outfit its fleet of 160 planes with inflight Internet access starting in mid-2012, the airline said Wednesday.  Demand continues to surge for Wi-Fi connections on airliners.  Nearly all major U.S. carriers have or are rolling out inflight Internet service.
  • Neck pillows are great if you can sleep with your head perfectly held in place. If you tend to nod forward while sleeping in a seated position, turn the neck pillow around to support your chin.  This video from LifeHacker shows you how.
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport began using a new, high-tech body scanner at one of its checkpoints Wednesday.  The full-imaging scanner is the first in Minneapolis and screens passengers for essentially anything under the clothes.  Civil rights groups have expressed concern that the machines, which produce a detailed image of a person’s body, are too revealing.  But MSP security officials say they’ve taken steps to protect privacy.

FlightsCancelled

Mother Nature is again beating up the Northeast and mid-Atlantic region – and again hundreds of flights have been cancelled as a result.

As early as last night Continental Airlines had canceled 70 flights for today at its Newark hub.  US Airways canceled 160 flights from Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington.  Delta, Jet Blue and American Airlines were advising travelers that flights were likely to be canceled and to call ahead before heading for the airport.  Southwest Airlines has already canceled most of its Thursday flight schedule at Philadelphia International Airport.

In total,  approximately 500 flights have been canceled at Newark Liberty.  At New York’s JFK and LaGuardia airports, the total number of cancellations currently stands at about 200.  Coupled with the Philadelphia and Boston disruptions, we’re looking at about 1,000 flight cancellations overall.

My advice:  Avoid the Northeast if at all possible.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • The Department of Homeland Security will begin installing the first of 150 full-body scanners in U.S. airports next week.  Boston’s Logan International Airport will be the first, with three scanners scheduled for installation.  Officials plan to install another scanner at Chicago’s O’Hare International in the next two weeks.
  • Due to some well-worded letters from Georgia community leaders, Delta is reducing the airfare between Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport and Atlanta by as much as 40 percent for the next four months.  Rountrip airfare purchased at least seven days in advance has been reduced from $510 to $300 and walk-up tickets have been rediced from $656 to $400 roundtrip.  I’m sending my letter to Delta today to see if they can lower the Seattle to New York flight for me.
  • Alaska Airlines is dumping its previously announced Wi-Fi test partner and switching to Aircell Gogo in hopes of outfitting its entire fleet of aircraft with Internet service in a more timely manner.  According to an airline spokesperson, their “hope is to have the entire fleet outfitted by the end of year.”